Hello everyone! The silence - believe me, five days counts as silence - has been due to a Christmas break up in Scotland, and very nice it was too. Having spent many many hours umm-ing and aah-ing about whether to go at all due to the snow and ice on the roads, we finally decided we would attempt the journey, and ended up breaking our record time by about half an hour. This is in part due to the outside temperature dropping to -13.5 celcius on our way up. Normally we stop and stretch our legs a couple of times, but as the car was a cosy +24 celcius, it was an easy decision to keep on driving.
Not too much time was spent birding, or at least, not by my normal standards, but I was able to add one last bird to my national year-list, the regular drake Surf Scoter in Largo Bay. Unless something extraordinary happens tomorrow, it's all over and I'm finishing on 306, something I really hadn't counted upon. A few other goodies as well, though nothing new, in the form of all three regular Divers, quite a few Grebes including a Red-necked, and loads of stunning Long-tailed Ducks. Got a few photos of them, but I'm saving them for a different purpose. Finding myself a few short of the London yearlist record at this late stage, I believe that it is traditional to get to the required total by submitting photos of birds taken elsewhere, so tomorrow expect to see my list augmented by a Red-throated Diver from the Girling, a flock of Long-tailed Duck at Rainham, and a Surf Scoter at Grays. Obviously don't waste any time looking for them, they will have all flown off, but you can see my photos in due course. Don't be put off by what appears to be the Bass Rock in the background of the Long-tailed Duck shot - you get all sorts of weird flotsam on the Thames these days....
Anyhow, I'm back now, and have just spent a rather unhappy morning at Rainham, somehow missing two Raven and a Gannet. It's one of those strage situations where had I been sat at home I would have been cursing myself for not going to Rainham, but in fact I was actually there and yet saw nothing! I'll try again tomorrow, last chance saloon. Right now though, birding is over for the day, and I am about to attack the spreadsheet of happiness in preparation for 2011. Always fun setting the counter back to zero, it must be the most eagerly anticipated day of the year for all birders. On January 1st this year I'll be out on Wanstead Flats, so if you're there, come and say hi.
Next up, the ubiquitous year-end round-up post. Best bird, worst bird, best twitch, worst twitch and so on. If you can't wait until tomorrow, why not have a read of last years?